The central research questions of my lab involve primate development and life history and incorporate techniques from behavioral ecology, morphometrics, and genomics across the Order Primates and in vervet monkeys (Chlorocebus spp.), in particular.
Through intensive fieldwork across Africa and the Caribbean with the International Vervet Research Consortium we have collected biological samples from over two thousand wild vervet monkeys. Current projects using this dataset include characterizing evolutionary patterns in the developmental morphometrics of various vervet populations, including the use of population and comparative genomic techniques. We also investigate the genomics of obesity during development in over 700 fully sequenced and pedigreed captive vervets at Wake Forest University. Work is ongoing to assess the phenotypic impact of captive-discovered QTL in our extensive wild sample, assessing variability in phenotype expression and population-specific selection based on local ecology and anthropogenic impacts. Field work for these projects is ongoing and can be followed on social media at #BUvervets16 and #BUvervets17.
Another area of investigation is the evolution of dental phenotypes across primates. With colleagues at UC Berkeley, we have discovered a method for better understanding the underlying genetic architecture of dental phenotypes using quantitative genetics and metric measures of museum specimens. Students in my lab have ongoing projects in local museums collecting dental measurements of both extant and fossil New World monkeys and lemurs with the goal of better understanding the evolution of these dental phenotypes across primates.
Schmitt CA, Service S, Cantor RM, Jasinska AJ, Jorgensen MJ, Kaplan JR, and Freimer NB. High heritability of obesity and obesogenic growth are both highly heritable and modified by diet in a nonhuman primate model, the African green monkey (Chlorocebus aethiops sabaeus). International Journal of Obesity, in press.
Hlusko LJ, Schmitt CA, Monson T, Brasil M and Mahaney MC. (2016). The integration of quantitative genetics, paleontology, and neontology reveals genetic underpinnings of primate dental evolution. PNAS 113(33): 9262-9267.
Jasinska AJ, Zelaya I, Service SK, Peterson C, Cantor RM, Choi O-W, DeYoung J, Eskin E, Fairbanks LA, Fears S, Furterer A, Huang YS, Ramensky V, Schmitt CA, Svardal H, Jorgensen MJ, Kaplan JR, Villar D, Aken BL, Flicek P, Nag R, Wong ES, Blangero J, Dyer TD, Bogomolov M, Benjamini Y, Weinstock GM, Dewar K, Sabatti C, Wilson RK, Jentsch JD, Warren W, Coppola G, Woods RP, Freimer NB. (2017). Genetic variation and gene expression across multiple tissues and developmental stages in a non-human primate. Nature Genetics 49: 1714–1721.
Svardal H, Jasinska AJ, Apetrei C, Coppola G, Huang Y, Schmitt CA, Jacquelin B, Müller-Trutwin M, Weinstock G, Grobler JP, Wilson RK, Turner TR, Warren WC, Freimer NB, Nordborg M. Ancient hybridization and strong adaptation to viruses across African vervet monkey populations. Nature Genetics 49: 1705–1713.